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Harrow cancer charity pioneer dies aged 83

A pioneering Harrow-based charity fundraiser has died at her nursing home in Wimbledon, aged 83.

Gillian (Jill) Phillips, from Stanmore, was a leading innovator at Macmillan Cancer Support, creating the cancer charity’s now famous ‘Macmillan Coffee Morning’. To date, Macmillan Coffee Mornings have raised over £310million for the cancer charity, which provides vital support to people with cancer.

Jill was also pivotal in launching several other high-profile Macmillan fundraising events; including the popular House of Lords vs. House of Commons Tug of War, which still takes place annually.

As a result of her fundraising legacy and influence, Jill had the honour of leading the Macmillan Nurses in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Parade in 2002.

The first Macmillan Coffee Morning took place in Harrow back in 1990. It was a simple idea: people across the country would gather over a coffee in their workplace or home and donate the cost of their cuppa to Macmillan. It has now grown to be the charity’s single biggest fundraising event and even appears in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s biggest ever coffee morning.

Macmillan’s Chief Executive, Lynda Thomas CBE, led the tributes to the much-loved Jill: “Jill was a valued member of the Macmillan family for many years and played such an important part in our history.

“Jill was the driving force behind the first Macmillan Coffee Morning, as well as many other fundraising initiatives.  She was vital in making a positive difference to the lives of people living with cancer and we simply could not have achieved what we’ve done without her incredible support.”

Jill’s sister, award-winning novelist Anne Easter Smith, added: “I often described Jill as the most organized woman in London, and anyone who ever worked with her will attest to that! Once her brilliant mind came up with a fundraising idea, she would put her heart and soul into making it succeed. Macmillan was a passionate cause for her during her fifteen-year tenure there, and I am only too sorry that, due to her particular form of dementia, she never knew how successful her Coffee Morning brainchild had become.”

Born in Stanmore in February 1939, Jill Phillips joined Macmillan in 1980 and became the charity’s Chief National Fundraiser.

Upon her retirement, Jill continued to be a passionate advocate and campaigner for a number of charities. In 2012, Jill was diagnosed with dementia and spent her final years in the care of the dedicated staff at Barchester Queens Court nursing home in Wimbledon.

Jill passed away peacefully on 13th August 2022. Her memorial will be held in Wimbledon on the 22nd September. In lieu of flowers, donations in Jill’s name may be made to Macmillan Cancer SupportIntegrated Neurological ServicesThe National Theatre, or The Globe Theatre.

Macmillan Coffee Morning will take place this year on Friday 30th September: https://coffee.macmillan.org.uk

Harrow Online would like to send our condolences to all of Jill’s family, friends and colleagues at this time. To donate to Macmillan: https://www.macmillan.org.uk/donate